THIS Saturday is the sixth annual Armed Forces Day, a UK-wide celebration in honour of our Servicemen and women, past and present – and with this year being of course the centenary of the First World War, one’s thoughts cannot help but turn to the forces personnel who have contributed so much to our country over so many years, and continue to do so.
People across the country are gearing up to commemorate the WWI centenary – and I have written previously on the fantastic project being run by the Friends of St Augustine's (of which I am proud to be a member), to restore the WWI roll of honour at the church, thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s First World War: Then and Now programme.
The project will see the Roll of Honour on the west wall of the church restored, and an online archive created to detail the lives and families of as many of the men whose names appear on the roll as possible.
These men were in my mind last week when, along with the regional supervisor of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), I visited Penarth Cemetery and the churchyard at St Augustine's, to see the WWI and WWII graves that lie there.
Did you know that there are 12 WWI and 39 WWII graves at Penarth Cemetery, as well as one foreign WWI grave? There are also 14 WWI and WWII graves at St Augustine's; three at St Dochdwy's in Llandough; and two at St John the Baptist in Sully.
I wonder how many of us have visited the cemetery or these churchyards, without realising that these brave people are buried and commemorated there.
It was a fascinating and moving visit, and I am grateful to the CWGC for taking the time to tour the sites with me, and talk about their work and their responsibility for the commemoration of war graves right across the Commonwealth.
The CWGC maintains graves in 23,000 locations in 153 countries, with 170,000 graves in the UK alone, across 13,000 locations. It keeps records of those who died in the World Wars – which are available to the public, and also commemorates more than 100,000 missing naval and air force casualties.
Their work stretches across the continents, but is focused on commemorating each of the fallen, regardless of rank, status, race and religion – and my visit reminded me of the heavy price that every community, including our own, paid during those dark days of war.